88 PLACES THAT ROCK

The Wom­bat State For­est, a short drive from Mel­bourne, has about 100 kilo­me­tres of trail – most of it sin­gle­track – snaking through en­chanted na­tive for­est of tree ferns and tall eu­ca­lypts

Australian Mountain Bike - - Contents - STORY Imo­gen Smith PHO­TOG­RA­PHY Imo­gen Smith and Richie Tyler

Close to the charm­ing tourist town of Wood­end and at­trac­tions like the winer­ies of the Macedon and Daylesford re­gions, an­tique shops, open gar­dens, and of course the mys­te­ri­ous Hang­ing Rock, there are plenty of ex­cuses to pack the fam­ily up for the weekend and visit. Just don’t for­get your bike.

The Wom­bat State For­est was logged in­ter­mit­tently from the gold-rush of the mid-1800s un­til the Ash Wed­nes­day fires burnt most of it in 1983. Many of the fire roads and tracks fol­low old log­ging routes and the sin­gle­track is main­tained by a group of com­mu­nity vol­un­teers.

The trails here are pure crosscountry. Twist­ing through the trees, they take you deep into the bush, so make sure you’ve got plenty of wa­ter and food on you. Keep an eye out for plen­ti­ful na­tive bird life, wal­la­bies and kan­ga­roos, an alarm­ing va­ri­ety of fungi (not for eat­ing) and, of course, if you’re lucky, a wom­bat hole or two. You’ll en­counter plenty of log rollovers, rick­ety tim­ber bridges, roots, branches, jumps and berms, the odd rock or two, and lots and lots of cor­ners.

GET­TING THERE

The Wom­bat trails are less than one hour’s drive from Mel­bourne and about 35 min­utes from Tul­la­ma­rine Air­port, so the eas­i­est way to reach them are via that city. It is pos­si­ble to drive from Can­berra and Syd­ney. Al­low seven and nine hours re­spec­tively.

If you’re based in Mel­bourne it’s sim­ple to pop your bike on the train and alight at Wood­end sta­tion which, luck would have it, is just across the road from Wood­end Cy­cles. From the rail­way sta­tion it’s a pleas­ant roll to the trails. Turn left down Ash­bourne Road, then do a dog­leg left at Dafter Road and right into Bold­is­ton Road – the trail­head carpark is at the in­ter­sec­tion with Tay­lor road. A fan­tas­tic trail map is avail­able at wom­bat­mtb.com.au.

TECH­NI­CAL NA­TURE

The trails in and around the Wom­bat State For­est are a di­verse mix of flow­ing, hard­pack sin­gle­track and pine for­est sin­gle­track, as well as some well-main­tained fire roads and rougher four-wheel drive tracks. The sinewy tracks fea­ture tim­ber

bridges and lots of logs, and are oc­ca­sion­ally rut­ted, but gen­er­ally suit cross-coun­try rid­ers of all lev­els, and there aren’t any in­sur­mount­able climbs.

YOU’LL NEED

The usual: Spares, plenty of food and drink, a phone, and prefer­ably a map. Trails are densely packed and can get con­fus­ing. Al­though they’re quite well marked in places, not all trails are – make sure you know your way out!

DIS­TANCES

There’s loads of sin­gle­track out there. Link it up with fire road and you can ride any­where up to 100km. If you’re look­ing for a long one, check out the route for the ‘Wom­bat100’ marathon race held here ev­ery year at wom­bat100.com.au.

LO­CAL KNOWL­EDGE

There are plenty of lovely places to stay in Wood­end, from B&Bs to car­a­van parks, as well as lots of places to eat and drink. AMB en­joyed the food and cof­fee at Maloa House, as well as their warm wel­come on a chilly day.

If you want to make a weekend of it and have a big group, Cammeray Wa­ters Con­fer­ence Cen­tre (www.cam­mer­ay­wa­ters. com.au) is right in the mid­dle of the for­est, but gen­er­ally only take large book­ings.

BEST TIME OF YEAR

You’ll be able to en­joy the Wom­bat trails year-round, but it can get very cold down there in win­ter, so rug up or stick to the warmer months, from about Novem­ber to March, al­though watch the heat when you’re out in sum­mer and be wary of the im­pact your bike has on these pre­cious trails if rid­ing in the wet.

WHILE IN THE AREA

Af­ter you’ve checked out Wood­end for some great cafes and restaurants, visit Hang­ing Rock and Mt Macedon for some spooky side trips into the Aussie bush – there’s plenty of bril­liant road rid­ing around these spec­tac­u­lar nat­u­ral ar­eas, too. The area boasts some beau­ti­ful open gar­dens and end­less tour­ing on quiet coun­try roads, whether by car or bike. The Macedon Ranges and Daylesford re­gions have an abun­dance of ac­tiv­i­ties to re­ward long hours on the bike, in­clud­ing win­ery tours, gourmet farm pro­duce and mar­kets, arts and crafts, and day spas.

LO­CAL BIKE SHOPS

Wood­end Cy­cles are a great lo­cal shop with lots of trail knowl­edge and is just across the road from the rail­way sta­tion wood­end­cy­cles.com.au.

LO­CAL CLUB CON­TACTS

Wom­bat Moun­tain Bike Club are ac­tively main­tain­ing and rid­ing the trails and have lots of info on their site wom­bat­mtb.com.au.

REG­U­LAR EVENTS

The Wom­bat100 marathon rolls into the for­est ev­ery year in April, and the Wom­bat Moun­tain Bike Club holds the Wom­bat24 here late in the year. Lo­cal club races and so­cial rides are also reg­u­lar events and are a great in­tro­duc­tion to the trails. Check wom­bat­mtb.com.au for more info.

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